Edward Lozansky – America Hates A Russia Of Its Own Invention

I will be jetting off tomorrow to Washington, but before I do – a translation of Edward Lozansky’s interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda (Америка ненавидит Россию, которую сама себе придумала). Lozansky, who used to be a Soviet dissident, is the organizer of the World Russia Forum and has many strong, pertinent views on why it’s a good idea to develop the US – Russian partnership.

An American politologist and a Russian journalist from Komsomolskaya Pravda tried to find out whether it’s possible to change Washington’s attitude to Moscow.

America Hates The Russia That It Invented Itself

Discussion with Edward Lozansky, Alexei Pankin, and KP’s Aleksandr Grishin.

A new period is beginning in US – Russia relations at the start of Vladimir Putin’s new term as Russian President. Washington doesn’t hide its critical attitude to Moscow, despite mutual assurances that the Reset is here to stay. American politologist Edward Lozansky and Russian journalist Alexei Pankin are with us at Komsomolskaya Pravda to discuss what we can expect from these new developments.

For some – a partner, for others – a competitor

Lozansky: I would identify two schools of political thought and public opinion. One of them is more influential than the other. It considers Russia to be not far removed from the Soviet Union, and while there may no longer be ideological differences, geopolitical conflicts remain unresolved. That is why Russia is seen as an unfriendly country. And how do you deal with an unfriendly country? You use hard power – the Pentagon, and soft power, including the media. And you take other opportunities to portray this country in a bad light. The vast majority of the American media holds these positions.

The second school consists of pragmatists, who consider that Russia has made certain progress in areas such as freedom, human rights, and democracy. They understand that it is not perfect – there are no perfect countries. Nonetheless, Russia is an important geopolitical partner of the US, and has to be treated accordingly. No interference in its internal affairs, but a search for common problems and their solutions.

This is the main difference. The first group assumes that Russia is a competitor and an adversary. The possible future President, Mitt Romney, even claimed that Russia is Enemy Number One, a characterization to which even his fellow party members objected. The second group considers your country a partner. Unfortunately, the second school, to which I attach myself, is less significant. Its voice only occasionally seeps into the mass media, while the first one dominates.

Pankin: As the editor of the Russian version of an international publishing journal, I have a lot of contacts with foreign journalists. And I am surprised that they, who monitor the state of freedoms in Russia and – one might think – would be a highly informed public, live in a world of strange stereotypes. I was recently in Tunis, where UNESCO was marking World Press Freedom Day. I was struck by the attitudes there towards me, as if I was someone who had escaped from Putin’s torture chambers. I was unable to explain to them that I was not some kind of downtrodden person, because they simply refuse to see anything which doesn’t coincide with their stereotypes.

For instance, they tell me: “What bad luck for you, that you guys elected Putin again.” And when you try to grind in the point that Putin got a MAJORITY OF THE VOTES in the country, that he was ELECTED by the people, you can see them becoming flabbergasted as their frames of reference are challenged.

Grishin: Well doesn’t this mean that for the American political majority it doesn’t matter who’s in power in Moscow, democrats or conservatives. Putin comes in, goes out, but Russia remains a geopolitical rival or enemy. It is Russia’s very existence in its current form that the US has a problem with. Is that not so?

Lozansky: It is likely that ultimately a few things will change, if people who are prepared to help the US more come to power. Much depends to what extent your policies support American interests. Take Georgia. They got colossal financial support. The biggest in per capita terms, by the way, of all the other countries that get American aid. For all its debts – and America has huge debts – it is still able to find the funds to support Georgia, because it considered to be a country that performs certain functions that answer to US geopolitical interests.


You can also watch a detailed discussion with Lozansky on Prosveshenie TV.AK


Fear and loathing in Washington

Grishin: Anyone in particular in Washington that Russia bothers, and how?

Lozansky: I would identify four groups, whom Russia bothers for one reason or another. First, the neocons. For them, Russia is always wrong. And they believe that it’s necessary to change the situation in Russia, relying on both hard power, and soft. This is a fairly influential group. It was especially dominant under Bush, when Cheney was one of its main leaders. And relations between Russia and America under Bush slipped below the levels of the Cold War.

The second group of the anti-Russian lobby are the ethnic communities of the East European countries, the Baltics. Those, who suffered under the USSR. For them, the new Russia might not quite be the USSR, but it is still a threat to their security. They retain the fear that Russia might at any time occupy them. The third group is the military industrial complex. For them, Russia isn’t only an enemy, but a bogeyman which they can trot out in order to earn orders and attract funding.

There is also a new element – oligarchic capital. Those are billion dollar fortunes, uncompromising hatred towards Russia’s leader. With such capital, it is possible to hire any journalist’s pen, the media. This factor, which previously did not exist, is very significant: This powerful group creates a certain background, applies pressure on the US Congress.

Grishin: Pressure on Congress – isn’t that from the realm of fantasy?

Lozansky: Every week Congress holds hearings in which Russia is subjected to the harshest criticism. Representatives of the Russian opposition take the floor. By the way, about this lack of freedom. They arrive there without ruffle or excitement, the leaders of this very opposition, from Bolotnaya. There they say the most dreadful things. Surprising even to the Americans. This is not accepted among us. You can criticize anyone you want at home, but when you go to another country, it is not acceptable to besmirch your own country… Such demeaning criticism, which Congressmen hear from Russian citizens, doesn’t happen in any other country. And then they come back to Russia.. And nobody arrests them, or throws them into any dungeons.

Pankin: What, in the opinion of Americans, now characterizes Russia? Rollback of democracy, suppression of freedom. They feel that only under Yeltsin was there a true democracy. They have forgotten Gorbachev and don’t want to understand that Yeltsin didn’t add anything to Russian freedoms, relative to the Secretary General of the CPSU Central Committee Gorbachev.

But with that very same freedom of speech, we’ve advanced very far. It has become a market. People got the opportunity, and learned to earn themselves a decent living. But all this is tossed to the side and ignored.

Our non-systemic opposition decided to ascertain the road to democracy with the American ambassador, coming as guests to Michael McFaul almost on his first day of work in Moscow.

For a large part of the US, Russia doesn’t exist

Grishin: There’s this anecdote, some people are on a famous radio station and having a live discussion on how there is no free speech in Russia and are not allowed to express their views. (AK: Refers to Echo of Moscow)

Lozansky: As regards this radio station, it truly amazes me. The majority shareholder is a structure, in which the government has a controlling stake. (AK: Gazprom) In the US we have “Voice of America”, which exists on government money. And they have no right to criticize either US policies, nor any individuals in government. In your country, this radio station almost acts as an opposition organizer. Here Russia is ahead of us on democracy.

Pankin: By the way, there are now some very interesting developments in the “Arab Spring” countries. From the stands come the same speeches which we heard back in the early 90’s, but when you climb down, you hear entirely different conversations in the gullies. That it was iPad-toting people who came out on the streets, but entirely different people came to power. In Cairo today there is panic among female professors: They fear that they’ll have a hijab forced over their heads.

Lozansky: Did you know, that after the Arab revolution, the Egyptian authorities raided the offices of Freedom House and arrested their employees, accusing them of interfering in the internal affairs of the state. And this was all after Mubarak. Also arrested were members of the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, which all continue to operate entirely freely in Moscow. And they had to be bought back.

Grishin: Let’s leave the Arabs aside, return to Russia and America and press freedoms. Edward, do you, with you views, get printed in the US? You do have, after all, many more freedoms than we do, according to US opinion.

Lozansky: Of course we have freedom – nobody is imprisoning me for my views. But there are problems with publication. The editors say, as you here put it, “Newspapers aren’t made of rubber.” And so it’s good when just one out of 15 articles goes through. But I also have an alternate path. I have a small business – “Russia House” in Washington – and I can sometimes just buy a page in the Washington Times newspaper and write everything I want to there.

But in general, I’m amazed by the significance that you attach to what they say about Russia in America. I can tell you that in America few people are actually interested in Russia. The Russian factor is mostly raised by those groups, which I described above, and they do it to advance their own interests. For the average American, especially during election season, the most important issue is the economy. The budget, gas prices, the unemployment rates are what most concern the American family. These are simple and human things, to which Russia is irrelevant.


  1. Excellent post as usual, Anatoly!

    To the post-Mubarak wave of democratic reforms, add the torching of Ahmed Shafiq’s campaign headquarters by demonstrators, for having the temerity to force the election into a run-off.


    As Pussy Riot likes to sing, Egyptian air is good for the lungs. You can almost smell the freedom, can’t you? The preferred government of the loudest shouters – the Muslim Brotherhood – is likely to win, and Egypt can look forward to a return of sharia law and Islamic fundamentalism. What a victory for democracy!!! Not that Mubarak was a shining example of the concept, being quite a bit more of a dictator than a democrat. But ask Egypt’s women if they’re happy to see the end of secularism.

    Russia is looking like making a return to influence and power regardless the attitudes of the ignorant, provided its leadership is careful and does not allow itself to be fooled by all the bibble-babble about a looming political crisis and abdication of legitimacy, which is nothing more than what they wish would happen.

    • Egypt can look forward to a return of sharia law and Islamic fundamentalism… But ask Egypt’s women if they’re happy to see the end of secularism.

      I would assume they are looking forwards to it, and will be more than happy to see it. 85% of Egyptians think Islam’s role in politics is positive, and more than three quarters support stoning for adultery and death for apostasy. This is democratism in action. I have no problem with it, except to the extent that Islamist apes don’t tend to stay within their own borders.

      • yalensis says:

        Nah, the apes won’t stay within their borders, because they have that “Crusadin’ Ape” kinda mentality. Having overrun Lybia, the killer apes are now flooding into Syria with a lotta help from their benefactor, Uncle NATO. Cutting kids throats and the usual stuff that they do.

        • There are both Crusader apes (which you described) and then there are also Islamist apes, who spread out like a cancer, radicalizing formerly moderate Muslim populations and engaging in direct terrorist activities from the US to Spain to India to Russia. Fascinatingly, despite their ostensible hatred for each other, the Crusader and Islamist apes have developed a kind of symbiotic relationship with each other – and normal people are the host for those parasites.

  2. A very interesting discussion. Thanks Anatoly for the translation.

    There is one point for me which stands out. This is the readiness of some Russian oppositionists to go to the parliament and government of a foreign country and to lobby against their own country. I cannot imagine any other democratic country where such conduct would be remotely acceptable. There is for example a strong convention here in Britain that anyone involved in British politics does not badmouth Britain when travelling abroad. On the extremely rare occasions when they do there is uproar and those who do it pay a heavy political price.

    I think the parliamentary parties should come together and agree that it is the patriotic duty of all people involved in Russian politics never to speak ill of their country when abroad. Anyone who does and who is a member of a parliamentary party should be automatically expelled from the party they belong to and no political party represented in the Russian parliament should have anything to do with anyone from the non parliamentary or pseudo revolutionary or non system opposition who does. Also if any radio or television station or newspaper chooses to interview any such person or carries articles or broadcasts comments by any such person then I think the parliamentary parties should instruct their members to give no interviews, to write no articles and to appear in no broadcasts of any such radio or television station or newspaper unless and until that radio or television station apologises and commits itself never to give time or space to such a person again.

    • Alex, I completely agree, and I think that these rules – or more like “understandings” – are indeed adhered to within the US. (I no longer observe the UK political scene very closely but I can think of no counter-examples to what you described).

      That said, there is however one very big and curious exception to this “Don’t criticize your own country and political opponents when abroad” rule – Israel. The Republicans indeed have no problems in pledging allegiance to an Israeli leader against their own President. Bizarrely, they do not pay a political price for it either, given the mass enthusiasm for Israel among the Republican evangelical base, and the tremendous influence of the Jewish lobby (a somewhat taboo term in US social discourse, but not the less valid for that).

    • Jennifer Hor says:

      Dear Alex,

      I would qualify your suggestion to say that anyone who is a member of a parliamentary party who is on official business abroad for that party should not speak ill of Russia’s people, culture, society, political system and all political parties (including the loopy ones). If the person is asked about specific policies or particular personalities in the party, and that person happens to disagree privately, that person should just say “no comment”, change the subject or terminate the interview. Usually if the media gets to that point of asking uncomfortable questions, it has a hidden agenda to provoke the interviewee. I would think though that most political parties in Russia already have guidelines on what their members can and can’t say to the press, same as political parties and even private organisations in the West. Every place I have worked for (local government, professional services firms) has policies on dealing with the media.

      Having said that, I know there will be occasions when the party adopts a platform or stand that the person regards as unethical (eg publicly supporting the Syrian government but doing or saying nothing about foreign infiltrators in Syria), stupid or ineffective. Should a foreign reporter interview that person and ask for an opinion, I suppose, depending on the circumstances and the issue, the interviewee must be honest and say “I personally don’t agree with my party on the issue but it was voted on, this is the majority decision, all members must abide by it”.

      In Australia we tend to regard politicians who toe their party line continuously, even when they have been treated badly by the party as Kevin Rudd was in 2010 (when he was dumped as leader and Prime Minister by the Australian Labor Party), as a bit strange. I’m suspicious of Rudd always cheerleading here and abroad for Julia Gillard who was one of the people who knifed him, especially since earlier this year when he mounted a leadership challenge against her and lost.

      • Dear Jennifer,

        Anyone within Russia should be free to make criticism. What I find completely unacceptable is activities like going to the US Congress or soliciting interviews in the US media to badmouth and lobby against one’s own country. Actively campaigning against one’s own country for Magnitsky lists, missile defence programmes etc is for me so outrageous that I find it astonishing that Russians appear to tolerate it to the extent that they do.

        As for provocative interviews of course they happen. A serious and experienced politician quickly learns how to deal with such interviews in a discrete and circumspect way. That is not what Russian oppositions who go abroad do.

  3. Leon Lentz says:

    The situation is a lot worse than Lozansky let us know. Just about every American publication about Russia contains outright lies, especially incorrect statistics. Americans are notoriously bad with numbers and journalists are more so than others, so I initially thought it may be inadvertent mistakes. However, it happens all the time and “mistakes” are always in one direction, to make things worse than they are. US refuses, for example, to even consider purchasing power parity numbers when calculatin GDP. US and Europe calculate GDP counting housewife unpaid labor as a contribution, additionally, an owner of a home would be considered as having an additional income equal to the cost of renting it out. If Russia would incorporate these figures and add shadow economy product, which is 30% of the total (a thus adding 43% to the official GDP), its GDP would double and would amount to about 40k a year per capita. One should add that regardless of GDP per capita, US is a highly unpleasant place to live, hot, muggy police state, an ugly concrete jungle with repugnant, brainwashed overwiight and ignorant population.

  4. On the broader topic of Russophobes, it looks like Craig Pirrong aka the Streetwise Professor has quit Twitter. Either the cognitive dissonance of being pressured by his increasingly authoritarian “tweeps” to back freedom loving Islamists in Syria got to him, or he just realized Twitter is mostly a huge time suck and a snake pit with lotsa cranks, some of which get herded into one direction or another (some of which might be paid) when convenient. I would lean toward the latter.

    In fairness, I do not think he quit because Twitter suspended his account for aggressive following of Henry Blodget and others. They generally don’t let you shut it all down until you’re un-suspended. I should know from experience.

  5. Honestly, I hope the CME henchmen didn’t nab the ole’ Professor after he started opining about Don Corzine et al.

    • Yeah, whatever did happen to SWP? Just noticed that his Facebook and Twitter profiles vanished. And the blog’s inactive for a week.

  6. Maybe his wife found out about his tweeting (j/k). I think it has something to do with all those tweets not being good for Prof. Pirrong’s consulting career, particularly on CME related topics. As he says on his blog he’s been called as a witness to multiple trials (that’s why he called Blodget a ‘snake’, apparently there was some bad blood between them as they were testifying on opposite sides of one case). Obviously his Twitter and blog is a gold mine for any defense attorney who wants to cross examine him to demonstrate predjudice against his client/s. Big bucks and big stakes.

    • LOL. His relations with “R” are certainly… torrid. That said, you’re probably spot on about the consulting stuff.

  7. One more thing (then end of thread for me, the comments here are great):

    I noticed SWP’s creepiest/Cointelpro wannabe former tweep @ReginaldQuill is calling for Alex Jones offices in Austin to be picketed by pro-regime change Syrian-Americans. Maybe they should picket National Review’s offices too while they’re at since apparently Rich Lowry hasn’t whipped everyone into the interventionist line over there, either:


    Looks like we’ll see the Kucinich Democrats and Paul-friendly Republic Liberty Caucus types again fighting it out with the Bilderberg/New Republic interventionist liberals and war whore Republicans ala McCain and Graham in Congress. If we don’t have a Syria war by the election we damn well will have one by late November/December.